"I’m good Hamlet gi’me a cause for grief"
At first glance, readers of The Hamletmachine (1979) could be forgiven for wondering whether it is actually a play at all: it opens with a montage of texts that are not ascribed to a character, there is no vestige of a plot, and the whole piece lasts a total of ten pages.
Yet, Heiner Müller’s play regularly features in theatres’ repertoires and is frequently staged by university theatre departments. In four short chapters, David Barnett unpicks the complexities of The Hamletmachine’s writing and frames its author as an experimental, politically committed writer who confronts the shortcomings of his age. In considering the problems Müller poses for the play’s performance, he also discusses two exemplary productions in order to show how the work can engage very different audiences.
This book examines why such a compact, radically open, and yet seemingly obscure play has proved so popular.
Introduction 1. Surveying the Scenes 2. A History of Western Civilisation in Ten Pages 3. Open Sesame? 4. Staging The Hamletmachine Conclusion
Routledge’s Fourth Wall books are short, accessible accounts of some of modern theatre’s best loved works. They take a subjective but easily digestible approach to their topics, allowing their authors the opportunity to explore their chosen subject in a way that is absorbing enough to be of use both to lovers of theatre and those who are being asked to study a play more deeply.
Each book in the series looks at a specific play, variously exploring its themes, contexts and characteristics while prioritising original, insightful writing over complexity or scholarly weight. While other cultural products such as albums and films are well served by this kind of writing, the Fourth Wall series aims to find room between rigorous analysis and the short format of reviews or articles. They are extended accounts that get to the heart of their chosen works without being bound by the density that academic treatments can often require.